Manchester youth, 45 Manchester Street, St Catharines engaged the Mayor of St. Catharines, Walter Sendzik, Officers of the Niagara Regional Police, NRPS, Fire Fighters, and the EMS to a Three on Three Basketball tournament on the court of the housing complex.
The game brought the community and the first responders together in picnic-like atmosphere.
Some kids got a chance to be in the driver’s seat of the police cruiser while some took photographs in the driver’s seat of the fire truck.
Sgt. Jack Warner of Niagara Regional Police has a program that brings him regularly to the Niagara Regional Housing on Manchester, and to other housing units in the area.
“The program has improved relationship between the police and the public.
“It increases awareness between the police and those who live at Manchester housing,” said Sergeant Warner.
Iliand Alton, 11, tried on the cap of Police Sergeant Warner. He hopes to make a career in law enforcement. He was shown how to turn on the red and blue roof lights of the police cruiser.
Jackson Henry, 3, was all smiles at the wheels of the fire truck.
Sergeant Warner said most officers generally get involved with the community. “I encourage my officers when they are on the road, though very busy to try and speak to people in the public and find out what the issues are, and help them solve them.”
Osama Ali, 16, student of St Francis Catholic Secondary School, going from grade 10 to grade 11 was one of the participants at the tournament. He said he has played basketball for his school for 2 years, and was glad to see the kids in the community participating in the community event.
He hoped such interaction between the kids, first responders and leaders in the community happen more often.
Walter Sendzik, Mayor of St. Catharines said the event was about bringing the community together. “We have an opportunity where many of us who are not here on a daily basis get to know the Manchester residents and the young kids get to interact with the fire fighters, police officers and the EMS. And maybe it is a future career they may want to pursue.”
Samuel Brefo has pent 5 years with the Niagara Regional Police Services. He has patrolled, and has responded to calls from Manchester housing. “ Great turnout, the kids are enjoying themselves,” he noted.
“Outside the uniforms, we are just regular guys and girls playing sports. I have been a police officer for 5 years. This is one of the areas I patrol.”
He said kids need role models. “They can excel to be greater in the future,” he stated. The interaction is also good for those in the emergency services. “It is good for people working in the emergency services to interact and know the community because most times it is a quick interaction,” said Samuel Brefo.
Samantha Bond, Co-op student, Niagara College, was putting in some hours at the Niagara Regional Housing when the idea for the basketball tournament was hatched.
Donna Woiceshyn, CEO, Niagara Regional Housing, hoped the community event would lead to more opportunity, more engagement with the children and their families.
“It is a very successful event and we will look at doing this in the future, and in other communities.”
Ehlam Ahmed and Marlin Deng were at the courtside to cheer for their kids during the tournament. Marlin Deng, 19 years living in Canada described the community event as amazing.
Fariss Akasha, 2, and Ahmed Jaber, 2, in their Police Community Engagement, Niagara PAGE T-shirt.
The event was collaboration between Niagara College and the Niagara Regional Housing, NRH.